Our two current pets were not always friends. As noted in this blog, kitty came to us from a home that had dogs, but those were 'her' dogs and once she came to our home, the dogs here were not her dogs, which made her skeptical of them.
To their credit, the three dogs were more than a little curious about kitty, back then. Yes, they'd had a kitty in the house, but Pandora was old, she was settled in her ways, and she mostly ignored the dogs. Therefore, they never got to know here, or to understand that she was just another creature, much the same as they.
Our dogs, at the time, were curious beyond compare about all animals. If you brought the animal into the house, their curiosity was multiplied exponentially. I do not think, however, they understood that other animals were the equivalent of them. In other words, other animals ('other' being the operative word here, as in anything that wasn't a dog - including a visiting ferret), were alien beings likely from another planet. We may argue that dogs don't understand concept such as 'planets' but the idea is what is important here. To Chester, Olive, Emily and the visiting granddogs, Twiggy and Onyx, cats or ferrets - and one would assume guinea pigs or other kinds of pets, heaven forbid we should bring a bird into the house! - were creatures of unknown origin, and certainly not 'dog'.
Which is true. They aren't "dog."
Over time, the pets in the house changed. The dogs came to understand that the kitty, Molly, was staying. That she was a member of the household. That she was maybe not the equivalent of each of them (after all, they are so unique and special, no other creature could match their awesomeness), but she was close to their equivalent. She was special in some other way. They came to know this and accept it, although for a good bit of time, it was clear their curiosity was not satiated no matter how close she allowed them to come to her, and as such, they viewed her as a visitor that wasn't leaving.
When we lost our beloved Chester, the status of the remaining dogs changed. It did not so much affect the cat, although clearly she knew something or someone was missing. Emily and Olive bonded, where before they had been friends, they now became close confidants. And kitty ... well, she became of interest because somehow their dear Chester was gone but kitty was not and the balance of power was shifted, just a bit.
If the grief I know both Emily and Olive felt, if the confusion - how does one explain to a dog that their best friend is gone, never to return? - commanded a great deal of their thoughts for a bit of time (it was weeks, not days), they mastered the missing link and began to consider allowing Molly in, closer, as a friend now, not just another strange creature in their domain. She was allowed on the bed at night, though she never stayed long. She was watched without curiosity about her, who or what she was, but with a certain, "what is she doing?" And, "why is she doing that?" The wonder wasn't about her specifically, any longer. It was about why she was allowed places they were not. Like, counter tops. And to set the record straight, no she was not allowed on the counter tops. But, she chose to walk about on them at will. As cats will do.
Days and weeks slipped by, as they do. Time stops for no one. Gradually, our little Olive aged and lost both hearing and sight. She and Emily bonded, in the absence of Chester, and both accepted Molly, but didn't cozy up to her. Neither did she cozy up to them. However, there was peace. There was acceptance. And, in some small way, I noticed that Molly was more comfortable around them. I noticed that they did not startle if she came nearby, as they had in the past. They silently, in some invisible way animals have, communicated to her that she was welcome in their world.
It's been a few months since we let our Olive go. Oh, that was a tough one. I will never forget how she cuddled in my arms - something she rarely did when she was in good health - and how she nudged my cheek with her muzzle. A very soft, gentle touch, as if to say, "I am ready to go." How wonderful is it that we can assess quality of life in our beloved pets and do what's right for them, rather than submit them to continued pain and distress? No amount of tears will serve to express the anguish of that decision, that day. And the empty spot in our lives will someday merely be shadow, but now, it's a vast, empty hole and the only relief we get is in remembering she is with her dear, dear Chester, now.
Emily is a healthy girl, and kitty, though she is battling some digestive issues, is her friendly, vocal, lovable self. And, the two of them have decided to be friends. Not bosom buddies. We won't go there. But, they accept their roles as 'only pets' and they touch noses (a form of communication that can mean just about anything, I think), and kitty no longer runs away if Emily startles her. She merely pauses in whatever she is doing, just to make sure there is no reason to bolt, and once assured that Emily is merely moving about the room or the bed, goes back to her grooming or her constant attention to the ceiling fan.
I have learned so much from these marvelous creatures in my home. Emily and kitty continue to teach me. They have much to teach me. I marvel at not only the human-animal bond that is so strong in our house, but at the animal-to-animal bond that has been forged over the last few years, between two creatures that once did not even give each other the time of day.
Such is life with dogs and cats, together. In our house. Where we treasure the human-animal bond in all of its intricacies. Don't you?